‘Night of the mothers’: Families rallying Saturday as hostage talks said set to resume

Protesters in Tel Aviv will demand the ‘neglectful’ government get the hostages back alive, after IDF recovers 3 more captives’ bodies in Strip; anti-government rallies also planned

Relatives and supporters of hostages taken captive by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza during the October 7 attacks, hold placards during a demonstration calling for their release, in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Relatives and supporters of hostages taken captive by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza during the October 7 attacks, hold placards during a demonstration calling for their release, in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Protesters were set to gather in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to demand the government bring back the hostages alive, a day after the military announced the recovery of three more hostages’ bodies from Gaza, and amid news that indirect Israel-Hamas hostage-truce talks are set to resume in the coming days.

Ahead of the main protest, the Metzger and Zangauker families said they would make statements to the media at 6:15 p.m. outside the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv. The statements were expected to address footage released this week of the abduction of five female surveillance soldiers from the Nir Oz base, Matan Zangauker‘s abduction, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly sabotaging talks for a hostage deal.

The statement also comes after the IDF released interrogation footage of two Hamas terrorists, a father and son, in which they confessed to kidnapping Israelis and named Matan Zangauker as one of the hostages they took. The video was first leaked to the Daily Mail before later being released by the IDF, before the family was shown. The IDF later apologized to the family for not showing it the clip first.

Dubbed “Night of the Mothers,” the main protest was set to begin in Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square at 8:30 p.m. and include speeches from mothers of hostages being held in Gaza.

The speaker list, which was posted by the We Are All Hostages protest group, included Maayan Sherman, mother of soldier Ron Sherman who was taken hostage and killed in captivity; Einav Zengauker, Matan’s mother; Vicki Cohen, mother of soldier Nimrod Cohen; Yifat Calderon, cousin of Ofer Calderon; and Anat Agrest, mother of Matan Angrest.

Anti-government protests, demanding the ouster of Netanyahu and new elections, were also planned in Tel Aviv and at many locations nationwide Saturday night.

On Friday, the IDF announced that it had recovered the bodies of Orión Hernández Radoux, Hanan Yablonka, and Michel Nisenbaum from Gaza, all of whom the army said had been killed on October 7.

L-R: Hostages Michel Nisenbaum, Orion Hernandez, Hanan Yablonka. Their bodies were recovered from northern Gaza’s Jabaliya in an operation announced on May 24, 2024. (Courtesy)

This was the second week in a row that the IDF recovered bodies of hostages from Gaza after last week retrieving those of Shani Louk, Amit Buskila, Itzhak Gelerenter and Ron Benjamin, all of whom it said were also killed on October 7.

After last week’s announcement, the families of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniella Gilboa and Naama Levy chose to release harrowing footage on Wednesday of the soldiers’ abduction from the Nir Oz army base, to pressure the government into restarting talks for a hostage deal.

“The video released the other day and the IDF’s announcement this morning clinched our hearts and souls and clarified to everyone: The Israeli government neglected the hostages on October 7 and has been neglecting them for 231 days,” We Are All Hostages said in a statement on Friday, adding that “the hostage-sacrificing government has no right to exist.”

On Saturday, the statement said, “We are all mothers of hostages! We will all show up to demand: They were neglected alive — they’ll be returned alive!”

“We will all leave the house and stand by the hostages’ mothers in the most pressing and just protest there is against neglecting our children who are in the enemy’s hands, and for a deal now,” the group wrote.

Following an IDF statement on Thursday saying Netanyahu had been warned four times last spring and summer that Israel’s enemies might exploit the unrest in Israeli society in the last year caused by the government’s judicial overhaul, the group added that “our children cannot be sacrificed on Netanyahu’s and the corrupt and neglectful government’s altar.”

Clockwise, from top left: Daniella Gilboa, Karina Ariev, Naama Levy, Agam Berger and Liri Albag, who were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

Netanyahu rejected the IDF’s assertion that he had been warned of the potential harm that could be wreaked upon Israel amid the upheaval.

“Not only is there no warning in any of the documents about Hamas’s intentions to attack Israel from Gaza, but they instead give a completely opposite assessment,” Netanyahu’s office claimed in a statement.

It is believed that 121 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that.

Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

The hostages’ families have gathered weekly on Saturday nights throughout most of the war to demand the government do more to reach an agreement with Hamas that would secure their relatives’ release.

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